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Melrose Sells Nortek Air Management Unit for $3.63 Billion

U.K. buyout firm Melrose Industries Plc agreed to sell its Nortek Air Management business for 2.62 billion pounds ($3.63 billion), moving forward with a disposal interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some proceeds of the sale to Madison Industries Holdings LLC will be returned to shareholders, Melrose said Monday in a statement. The U.K. company will also pare debt and use about 100 million pounds to reduce a pension deficit at its main business, aerospace and automotive manufacturer GKN.

Melrose, which listed in London in 2003, buys industrial companies and seeks to improve the way they’re run before selling them, much like a private-equity firm. Including cash flows already received, the Birmingham-based company stands to have made more than $1.8 billion from Nortek, a maker of ventilation and heating gear for the U.S. construction sector, since its 2016 purchase.

Shares of Melrose were priced little changed as of 8:22 a.m. in London. The company has a market value of almost 8.7 billion pounds.

Bloomberg reported in early 2020 that Melrose was preparing Nortek for sale, before the pandemic disrupted industries and economies across the globe. The buyer, Madison Industries, is a privately-held company based in Chicago that’s focused on the healthcare industry, including several divisions that specialize in air filtration.

The resumption of the sale comes as deal-making picks up, driven by opportunities stemming from the crisis, cheap credit and companies seeking to clean up their balance sheets. For a buyout firm like Melrose, selling Nortek may free it up for new investment opportunities.

The announcement is positive for Melrose shareholders, JP Morgan analyst Andrew Wilson wrote in a note, as it’s set to double the value of shareholder equity on the deal, adding that it further validates the Melrose business model of buying assets to overhaul them before selling them on.

The sale should also allow Melrose to focus on turning around the operations of GKN, which counts Airbus SE as its biggest customer.

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